RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

Life can be busy and stressful, it’s not always easy to make time to stop, relax, and appreciate the beauty of nature.  If you’re looking for some time out, a lovely and relaxing activity that you can take part in this month is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017 – spending a restful hour watching and counting birds.

Hedges often provide food, shelter, and a nest site for garden birds.
Hedges often provide food, shelter, and a nest site for garden birds.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is a delightful activity to share.  You could snuggle up by the fire and count the birds you see from your window, or wrap up warmly to count birds in the park, or at your allotment.

Buzzards, also known by their scientific name of Buteo buteo, are a commonly spotted bird of prey in Britain.
Buzzards, also known by their scientific name of Buteo buteo, are a commonly spotted bird of prey in Britain.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has been extended for 2017, to cover the weekend of Saturday 28th January 2017 and Sunday 29th January 2017, as well as Monday 30th January 2017.  You’ll find lots of information on the RSPB’s website, including an online counting tool, and pictures to help you identify the birds you see.  To submit your birdwatch results, click here to visit the RSPB’s website, where you can also sign up to be an RSPB member, simply by clicking here.

Hanging up feeders filled with peanuts, seeds, and other foods, and supplying clean water, will encourage birds to your garden, but don’t forget that the plants in your garden, and how you tend them, will also encourage or discourage birds.

Oaks are the most amazing trees, they’re a habitat for hundreds of species of insects, and provide food, shelter, and nest sites for birds.  There are many other native trees, such as yew, silver birch, beech, hornbeam, and rowan that are perfect trees for large gardens.

Evergreen trees and shrubs can provide shelter for birds during the winter months. Female hollies produce berries which are a popular food for birds in autumn and winter.
Evergreen trees and shrubs can provide shelter for birds during the winter months. Female hollies produce berries which are a popular food for birds in autumn and winter.

In smaller gardens, it’s important to remember to provide food, shelter, and perches for birds.  If your garden is surrounded by bare fences, and features lots of paving and low growing plants, you won’t be providing enough facilities to encourage birds to spend much time in your garden.  Holly or yew clipped as topiary (choose female or self-fertile hollies for berries) will provide food, shelter and a nesting site for birds.

Yew can be used in many ways in the garden, it's ideal if you're thinking of planting an evergreen hedge, yew can be clipped and grown as topiary, or if you have a large garden, you might want to include a yew tree. Yew berries, also known as arils, are a popular food for blackbirds and greenfinches in the winter months.
Yew can be used in many ways in the garden, it’s ideal if you’re thinking of planting an evergreen hedge, yew can be clipped and grown as topiary, or if you have a large garden, you might want to include a yew tree. Yew berries, also known as arils, are a popular food for blackbirds and greenfinches in the winter months.

Fruit trees grown on dwarfing rootstocks, which are carefully pruned, cordon-grown and other trained forms of fruit trees are great options for small gardens.  Look out for ballerina apples that grow naturally as one upright stem with side shoots, they require little pruning and are a good choice for a small garden.

The guelder rose, Viburnum opulus produces white flowers in springtime, followed by red berries in autumn and winter.  The leaves of Viburnum opulus turn beautiful shades of orange and red before falling in autumn.  This is a great shrub for wildlife, that provides year round interest.  Growing to 5m (16ft) or more in height, and 2.5 – 4 m (8 – 13ft) wide, it’s perfect for a woodland style garden.  A dwarf form is available – Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’ which offers the same pretty white lace-cap style flowers, glossy berries, and other attractions, yet grows to 1.5m (5ft) tall and wide.

Robins, also known by their scientific name of Erithacus rubecula, are wonderful birds to see in your garden, or when you're out for a walk.
Robins, also known by their scientific name of Erithacus rubecula, are wonderful birds to see in your garden, or when you’re out for a walk.

Growing ivy, honeysuckle, or clematis over your fences will encourage insects and birds.  Hedges outlive fences, as they are unlikely to be damaged in a storm, as well as this, hedges support a wide range of wildlife.  You could plant an edible hedge and provide food for your family, or opt for Rosa rugosa, which provides beautiful fragrant pink roses, followed by large rose hips.  Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ is a white form; both grow well even in poor soil.   Yew, holly, beech, and hornbeam produce beautiful hedges.

Rosa rugosa roses are tough plants that grow well even on poor soils.
Rosa rugosa roses are tough plants that grow well even on poor soils.

If you want to protect birds, avoid using slug pellets, insecticides, and pesticides.  All levels of the food chain need to be present for a healthy balance in your garden.

This article was first published in the January 2017 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results

RSPB Big Garden BirdWatch 2018 Results.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017 Results.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 Results.

Other links and articles that may interest you…………….

To see the results of my 2017 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, please click here.

To see what birds I spotted when I took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2016, please click here.

For more information about the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017, please click here.

For tips, advice and lovely ideas of what you could do in your garden, or at your allotment from mid-January to mid-February, please click here.

To read about winter flowering plants, please click here.

For information about special snowdrop gardens, talks, events and open days for 2018, please click here.

For information on reputable, quality nurseries, where you can purchase snowdrops ‘in the green’, please click here.

To read about beautiful hollies, please click here.

For information on natural ways to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

To read the first part of my miniature orchid trial, please click here.

To read about growing indoor mushrooms, please click here.

For information about how you could help hedgehogs, please click here.

To read about the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2016, please click here.

To read about terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.

To read about the Rose of the Year Competition and the Festival of Roses at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, please click here.

To read about seasonal cut flowers, please click here.

To read about growing sweet corn shoots indoors, please click here.

To read my review of the Burgon & Ball Weed Slice, please click here.

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